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7 Animals That Change Color Better Than Chameleons

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Chameleons are often described as the “quick-change artists” of the animal kingdom, rapidly altering the shade of their skins to blend into their environment. But contrary to popular opinion, these tree-dwelling lizards are actually rather poor color-changers, as you can see in the clip below, which features a Madagascarian panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis):

While the creature's hue does change noticeably, the process takes several minutes and the eye-catching striped pattern on its sides remains intact—hardly the features of good camouflage. Furthermore, odds are that when you do see a chameleon change its color, it's probably trying to broadcast its mood rather than evade predators.

Nevertheless, the animal kingdom is filled with amazing color-changers, several of which dramatically outdo the chameleon clan in the skill of rapid-fire camouflage.

1. The Cuttlefish (Order: Sepiida)

Despite their cute-sounding name, these eccentric critters are actually cephalopods (the first of several you'll see on this list). Like many residents of their food chain, cuttlefish have to regularly switch between playing the roles of crafty predator and elusive prey. A group of specialized sacs which receive color-changing instructions directly from their brains help them to both grab a quick meal and avoid becoming one themselves.

2. The Peacock Flounder (Bothus mancus)

These flat fish are deadly predators thanks in part to a series of hormones that send pigment-modifying signals to their skin cells, which take effect within seconds. However, as you can see in the video below, their disguises aren't always perfect.

3. Various Squid Species

Several types of squid throughout the globe are capable of breathtaking color changes, such as this captive specimen filmed in a Turkish aquarium:

Recently, it was discovered that the series of pigment cells which control the color of these tentacled hunters could be synthetically manipulated by man-made electrical charges, as seen in the magnificent footage below:

4. Various Spider Species

A wide variety of eight-legged arachnids use camouflage to stalk their unsuspecting prey, including the bee-slaying white crab spider:

But amidst the 43,000 species known to science, a handful have even been known to engage in sudden spats of color-change. Among these are the genera Chrysso and Cryptophora, both of which hail from Australia.

5. The Cyanea Octopus (Octopus cyanea)

Using the same hue-shifting mechanism as its tentacled brethren, this inhabitant of the Indian and Pacific Oceans ups the ante by transforming the texture of its skin to match that of whatever it clings to.

6. The Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)

Like a scene from John Carpenter's The Thing, these enigmatic octopuses take color change a step further still by not only revamping their pattern on a dime, but changing the very shape of their bodies to imitate a sea snake, lion fish, or piece of floating coral—to name but a few deep sea impressions the mimic octopus can convincingly pull off.

7. Golden Tortoise Beetle (Genus: Charidotella)

Sometimes, romance is reason enough to inspire a change in hue. According to some entomologists, the golden tortoise beetle of eastern North America turns scarlet while copulating. Interestingly, they'll also do this to scare off predators when threatened: The bright red display makes many predators believe that the beetles are poisonous and that they should look elsewhere for sustenance.

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These Deep-Sea Worms Could Live More Than a Thousand Years

Plunge below the sparkling surface of the Gulf of Mexico, head down into the depths, and there you'll find the ancient ones, growing in clusters of drab tubes like piles of construction equipment. Scientists writing in the journal The Science of Nature report that some of these worms could be more than 1000 years old.

When it comes to marine organisms, the deeper you go, the slower and older life gets. Biologists have found an octopus that guarded her eggs for four and a half years. They've seen clams born during the Ming dynasty and sharks older than the United States. They've seen communities of coral that have been around for millennia.

Previous studies have shown that some species of tube worm can live to be 250 years old. To find out if the same was true for other species—in this case, the Gulf of Mexico's Escarpia laminata—researchers spent years watching them grow. They used a long-lasting dye called Acid Blue to mark six clusters of worms, then let them to go about their wormy business. A year later, they collected all 356 blue-stained tubes and brought them back to the lab to measure their growth.

By calculating the speed of the worms' growth and comparing it to the size of the largest individuals, the scientists could devise a pretty good estimate of the oldest worms' age.

And boy, are they old. The researchers' worm-growth simulation suggested that the most ancient individuals could be more than 9000 years old. This seems incredible, even for tough old tube worms, so the scientists calculated a more conservative maximum age: a mere 1000 years.

A millennium-long lifespan is an extreme and not the average, the paper authors note. "There may indeed be large E. laminata over 1000 years old in nature, but given our research, we are more confident reporting a life span of at least 250 to 300 years," lead author Alanna Durkin of Temple University told New Scientist.

Still, Durkin says, "E. laminata is pushing the bounds of what we thought was possible for longevity."

She's excited by the prospect of finding older creatures yet.

"It's possible that new record-breaking life spans will be discovered in the deep sea,” she says, “since we are finding new species and new habitats almost every time we send down a submersible.”

 

[h/t New Scientist]

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Watch as Hummingbirds Fly, Drink, and Flap Their Tiny Wings in Slow Motion
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Hummingbirds have more feathers per inch than nearly any other bird, but it’s hard to fully appreciate their luminescent colors when they beat their wings between 70 to 200 times per second.

For the enjoyment of birders everywhere, National Geographic photographer Anand Varma teamed up with bird biologists and used a high-speed, high-resolution camera to capture the tiny creatures in slow motion as they flew through wind tunnels, drank artificial nectar from a glass vessel, and shook water from their magnificent plumage.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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